Corvette Z06: power, perks

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By David Undercoffler

Ig­nore the part about zero to 60 in 2.95 sec­onds. In­stead, check out the price.

The new Corvette Z06 starts at $80,000. Fully loaded, it costs $110,000.

That’s a lot. But be­cause this 650-horse­power Vette is packed with power and perks, and has the chops to keep up with and even beat McLarens, Lam­borgh­i­nis and Fer­raris, it ranks among the best val­ues in pro­duc­tion cars on the mar­ket to­day.

“We de­cided to go whole hog and give peo­ple what they re­ally wanted in the car, in what­ever way they wanted it,” said Tadge Juechter, chief en­gi­neer for the Corvette.

All ver­sions of the cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Corvette

have an alu­minum frame that is lighter and stiffer than their pre­de­ces­sors’. This al­lowed Chevy to let a lit­tle sun­shine into the cabin. A Z06 con­vert­ible is avail­able for the first time, and all Z06s now come with the same stan­dard re­mov­able roof panel as other cur­rent Corvettes.

An op­tional eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion with pad­dle shifters is an­other first for the Z06. Cur­rent own­ers were “scream­ing” for an au­to­matic in the Z06, ac­cord­ing to one GM trans­mis­sion en­gi­neer. For $1,725 ex­tra, they can now get one.

On pa­per, a pure au­to­matic puts the Z06 at a po­ten­tial dis­ad­van­tage since nearly all its com­peti­tors of­fer a more so­phis­ti­cated dual-clutch gear­box.

But on the track this trans­mis­sion proved its worth. We tested all va­ri­eties of the Z06 at the Spring Moun­tain Mo­tor­spor ts Ranch track, an hour out­side Las Ve­gas. All our fastest laps of the day were in cars with the self-shift­ing gear­box. Shifts were im­me­di­ate and smartly timed, and the soft­ware was smart enough to know when to hold a gear rather than up­shift.

This gear­box also earns its keep in straight-line ac­cel­er­a­tion. This is the first front-en­gined, rear-wheeldrive pro­duc­tion car in the world to do zero to 60 mph in less than three sec­onds, Chevy says. The sev­en­speed man­ual trans­mis­sion takes 3.2 sec­onds.

That doesn’t mean the stan­dard seven-speed man­ual should be ig­nored. Rev­matched down­shifts (which can be turned off) make novices sound like pros. The clutch isn’t too heavy to work in free­way traf­fic, and the shifter has a firm, meaty feel to go with the mas­sive horse­power.

The car’s odd name is steeped in rac­ing lore. Gen­eral Mo­tors first used Z06 in 1963 as the code well-in­formed buy­ers could spec­ify on their or­der sheet to buy a race-ready Corvette.

This was Chevy’s way of get­ting around a ban by the Sports Car Club of Amer­ica against fac­tory-spon­sored auto rac­ing. Cus­tomers could sim­ply check one box on the or­der sheet and get a Corvette fit­ted with all the race parts that a fac­to­ryspon­sored car would have — but for the ban.

A cou­ple of decades later, Chevy res­ur­rected the Z06 name for a track-ori­ented (but street legal) ver­sion of the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Corvette in 2001.

This year’s Z06 is pow­ered by an all-new 6.2-liter, su­per­charged V-8 en­gine. Lurk­ing un­der­neath the Z06’s bulging, ven­ti­lated hood, it makes 650 horse­power and 650 pound-feet of torque. That’s a jump of 145 horse­power and 180 pound­feet from the out­go­ing model’s 7.0-liter V-8.

The en­gine also packs fuel-sav­ing tech­nolog ies such as cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion and di­rect in­jec­tion that help it achieve a fuel econ­omy rat­ing of 22 mpg on the high­way.

Yet the sound and the fury of this en­gine are so in­tox­i­cat­ing, few buy­ers will hit that num­ber. Dur­ing a week of testing a Z06 with a man­ual trans­mis­sion, we av­er­aged 13 mpg over­all.

The Z06 fires up with a quick roar be­fore set­tling down into a low, mas­cu­line bur­ble. Even when idling, it’s a beast, evok­ing the spirit of yes­ter­day’s mus­cle cars — when men were men and cars were tested not by Con­sumer Re­ports but at the drag strip.

That roar re­turns when the driver mashes the gas pedal and hangs on.

It’s a big car, and the front-en­gine setup also means the driver needs to be a lit­tle more de­lib­er­ate when carv­ing through turns than in a mid-en­gine ma­chine.

Chevy worked hard on this car’s aero­dy­nam­ics, and to great ef­fect. It car­ries speed through turns with su­perb grip and sta­bil­ity. The au­tomaker of­fers two op­tional packages that use spoil­ers and front split­ters be­low the bumper to in­crease down force.

The more ex­treme of the two is the Z07 pack­age. At $7,995, this is a tip-to-tail suite of up­grades that in­cludes car­bon-ce­ramic brakes, ul­tra-sticky Miche­lin tires and a stiffer sus­pen­sion. Even Chevy ad­mit­ted that this model will be a lot hap­pier on the track than in daily driv­ing.

The Z06 has few flaws. The steer­ing could use more feed­back from the road, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the rest of the car’s abil­i­ties. The non-car­bon ce­ramic brakes on the car we tested on the road faded dur­ing hard driv­ing.

The cabin in this gen­er­a­tion of Corvette of­fers plenty of com­fort­able room for two adults of any size. But while that’s ac­cept­able for the base model Corvettes, once you start spend­ing Z06 money, it’s not on par with the re­fine­ment and qual­ity of other cars in that price range.

But th­ese are just foot­notes.

The 2015 Corvette is mean, vis­ceral and thrilling. It’s hard to put a price on just how much fun this car is to drive. Maybe $80,000 is a good place to start.

Jerome Adamstein Los An­ge­les Times

THE NEW CORVETTE Z06 evokes the spirit of yes­ter­day’s mus­cle cars — when ve­hi­cles were tested not by Con­sumer Re­ports but at the drag strip.

Jerome Adamstein Los An­ge­les Times

THE Z06 is a big car, and the front-en­gine setup means the driver needs to be a lit­tle more de­lib­er­ate when carv­ing through turns than in a mid-en­gine ma­chine.

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